Digital Cameras for Kayaking and other times...

Discussion in 'Paddling Photography' started by oldsailor, Jun 24, 2008.

  1. oldsailor

    oldsailor Paddler

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    Years ago I was enough of a photographer to use a Nikon with multiple lenses. But I discovered that I became focused on the picture and not the experience and drifted away from photography. Now I always take a camera but only because it's on my cell phone.

    But there are times when I wish I had a camera with me... and times when I've taken photos with the cell phone that I wish were a little better.

    So, keeping in mind that I'm really never going to be a photographer again, what digital camera - amongst the apparently endless variety available - would be a good pick for someone who would use it on a casual basis for day-to-day photos as well as kayaking adventures? Preferably not too expensive.

    And, on a related question, are the camera cases available for the non-water-resistant models good enough?


    Craig
     
  2. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Craig,

    Your requirements are the same as mine.

    I now use a 7 Mpx Canon A570 IS, which has a 4X optical zoom, viewfinder, is compact (fits into Pelican Microcase 1050 for on-deck storage and quick access), and has optical image stabilization (not "digital" IS). It runs about 200 bucks now, I think.

    IS is essential for shots from a kayak. Period.

    The microcase is a one-latch affair and allows me to pull the camera, snap a shot, and get it stowed quickly. No mishaps in 4-5 seasons of microcasing (this camera and two before it; first one died of sand-induction; second one had an inferior lens so I gave it away).

    A viewfinder is essential for outdoor use: none of the LCD screens is bright enough in direct sunlight.

    7 MPx is plenty for snapshots. Never lacks for resolution; the limiting factor for on the water shots is camera shake.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, I own a Canon Powershot S1 IS, which has a 10X zoom and a large lens, but it is so bulky I would not take it on a kayak deck, even though Canon sells a purpose-built waterproof case. OTOH, DarrenM uses one of these a lot, and I am very impressed with what he can do with it, at just 3 MPx. If I were a more serious photographer, I'd invest in the case, and carry the whole shebang on deck.
     
  3. dvfrggr

    dvfrggr Paddler

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    Craig, I felt the same way, I took some nice pictures but the effort to keep up with the group and the care to protect the camera really does take away from the kayaking experience.
    I purchased a Pentax Optio WP over 3 years ago and although i get more blurred pictures and the crisp color pictures are not there like a Cannon I can focus on kayaking and just slide the tethered camera out of my vest pocket to get rough water shots and even underwater shots then roll up. The camera is part of my vest set-up and is with me at all times when i'm kayaking. I paddle with Glacier gloves and have no problem with the on/off button and the point and shoot aspect.
    I am envious of the quality pictures that this group posts but at this stage of my kayaking life the pocket waterproof digital is my thing.

    Dave R
     
  4. RichardH

    RichardH Paddler

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    I use a pentax optio w30 for kayaking and it's on a little caribiner to my PFD along with a sailor's float. It just sits on my spray deck on a short enough leash wo it won't go flying. I really don't think IS is incredibly handy until you're shooting at dusk or some other low light situation where you can't reliably use a flash.

    First off it means you don't get a waterproof camera (for now), so you'll have to carry it in a housing and they're typically big. Second, optical IS is not particularly good on consumer grade point and shoot cameras, typically averaging about 1 to 2 stops slower and draining the battery. Digital IS is a non feature.

    In morning-afternoon sun and even dense cloud, you wont get much blur if you know how to set your camera. It's far more efficient to watch your shutter speed than rely on a battery hogging IS feature. On the pentax, If the shutter speed is 1/60 of a second or faster, likely you wont get too much blur no matter what your zoom level. There are ways of making the camera meter do your bidding too. Out of all of the photos I have taken with the point and shoot, only a few have been blurry and mostly ones taken just after sunset at full zoom. IS likely would have helped in a situation like that, but 97% of the time it's totally un-needed and even then, the digital noise in the picture would have made it worthless anyway.

    One the other hand, if you find you're naturally stricken with terrible hand shake, IS is definitely the feature you need - it will eliminate shaky hands for the most part.

    -Rich
     
  5. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Richard wrote: Second, optical IS is not particularly good on consumer grade point and shoot cameras, typically averaging about 1 to 2 stops slower and draining the battery.

    1. That include the Canon S1, S2, S3, etc?

    I use the Av mode, force my S1 to f8 or so, and rely on the IS to let me get low-light shots with good depth of field, down to 1/6th of a second, hand-held, braced, usually. Not on the water, though, where my S1 never goes.

    2. Richard, have you used IS much from the cockpit of a kayak? Seems like my current PowerShot (A 570 IS) gets sharper, better photos than either of the previous point and shoots; neither had a great lens, however, so maybe what I am seeing is due to a better lens and not the IS. The previous ones were low-end Olympus models.
     
  6. oldsailor

    oldsailor Paddler

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    Let me just add that some way of pointing the camera relatively accurately is important to me. Maybe it's just my old eyes but I simply cannot use the LCD finders outside at all. I loved the SLR Nikons but I'm pretty sure nothing like that is available in digital; certainly not in water-resistant and probably would take more fiddling anyway.

    I also have to admit that all the various "settings" on digital cameras are, to me, much more confusing than setting f-stops and shutter speeds. I'm starting to feel like an old fuddy-duddy here, technologically speaking. An odd feeling for a network engineer who specializes in Linux.

    Craig
     
  7. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Craig, all I ever use on mine is tha Auto speed-preferred, and aperture-preferred choices. Then I set it for as many stops over or under what the meter says. You can treat it as you did that old SLR.

    You really should put one of Canon's PowerShot A 570 IS units in your hands and see how it feels and what it will do. I think it would fit your needs nicely.
     
  8. RichardH

    RichardH Paddler

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    1. I agree, if you're planning on shooting high f-stops at dusk, the Pentax is not the way to go. Also depth of field is often not a consideration on such poor optics. Usually you're shooting things are in a hyperfocal distance (landscapes, rocks, things on shore) and should all be nearly focused. a quick sharpening pass with software after will correct any softness you might experience due to poor aperture settings. I don't often use the point and shoot for wedding portraiture and I don't have a light bank, so I'll usually let the camera do the settings in Programmed auto mode.

    The S1 has a far, far, far better lens and sensor than the waterproof pocket cams. The olympus was much too soft-focused compared to the pentax when I took two pictures of the same thing in the store. I'd probably trust the olympus under water more though, the pentax series just don't seem as robust. Previously I was using a nikon P1 in a housing, but the housing failed while snorkelling in Hawaii and drenched the camera in salt water - I've sort of learned my lesson about using non waterproof devices out there.

    2. I have only used IS on land, unfortunately.. no real experience on water. It's just too expensive to tempt fate with my SLR. I'm generally pretty happy with the quality of the output I get from my Pentax . The camera's not my first choice for image quality, but I guess what I'm saying is that any camera can take good photos, it's usually about the photographer. IS helps in a very rare number of cases on land, and if anyone takes a photo at night with a sensor the size of a pea, the resulting photo clarity won't even be worth that extra bit of steadiness anyway because of noise artifacts.

    3. Old sailor - I'm not sure how to help you with the LCD screen thing. fewer and fewer cameras are offering the viewfinders these days and none of the waterproof ones have it. The one that AD is mentioning, the A570 IS, has a viewfinder, but it is not like your Digital SLR. You do not look through the lens, but into an offset eyepiece, so you may have to crop your photos after the fact. Depending one where your eye is, you may see more detail and wider perspective than the lens. The viewfinder is also not adjustable for bad eyesight, so you'll have to look through it with glasses on if you wear them.
     
  9. Doug

    Doug Paddler

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    Hi Craig,

    I'd be curious to know what size of camera you would like to use. This can help people make better suggestions. You've already given us some direction on what you're looking for, but maybe fill in these blanks:
    1. camera size
    2. price range
    3. preferred lens length (35mm equivalent). ie do you like really wide? 28-100? 28-200? etc
     
  10. oldsailor

    oldsailor Paddler

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    No bigger than about 2/3 the size of a Nikon SLR... and preferably a smidgin smaller.

    $150 to $250

    I prefer 28 to 100.

    Craig
     
  11. Doug

    Doug Paddler

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    That makes it pretty easy then oldsailor and definitely matches Dave's thoughts. I would recommend the Canon A590is (replaced the a570 I guess) which sells for $200 It is 8MP and probably has as good as glass as you'll find in that price range. The zoom range is 35 - 140mm, which matches your range. You will have to spend quite a bit more money if you want 28mm I think (maybe $350).

    While there are smaller cameras out there, this one will have slightly better grip which might be good for kayak trips. It comes with an optical viewfinder and I think the image stabilization is fantastic, I would not buy a new digital point and shoot without this feature.

    Reviews for this camera are good and it comes from a long line of very successful and well respected Canon digital cameras.

    If you're up for it, you can probably get Canon's waterproof case for it for $270, most of their cameras have a matching case.
     
  12. oldsailor

    oldsailor Paddler

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    Wow... that's amazing news. I wonder if it will fit the same case that AstoriaDave uses.

    Thanks a million. :)

    Craig
     
  13. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    The critical dimension is camera thickness. Check the specs and then dial up the Pelican Microcases to select the one you need.
     
  14. Doug

    Doug Paddler

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    It looks like the specs show the a590is to be a bit less thick and slightly wider.

    It's funny, despite there being so many digital cameras on the market I find that once a person's needs and requirements are set out, it is very easy to make a recommendation.
     
  15. Mike_Jackson

    Mike_Jackson Paddler

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    I have found that the camera that I have with me on all padling trips is my waterproof Pentax w20 (the olympus would probably be as good) - it fits so nicely into a PFD pocket. However, the best pictures I have taken paddling were with a canon S1 and/or an A570 in a canon waterproof housing - the extra zoom and image stabilization are a big help.
    So my best pics are taken with the canons, the most pictures are taken with the pentax...
     
  16. Roy

    Roy Paddler

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    I know it's not waterproof but does anyone have any thoughts on the Canon G9?
     
  17. oldsailor

    oldsailor Paddler

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    My old HP 3mp cam has both an optical and an LCD viewfinder and last week I noticed that the LCD screen has stopped working completely (gets funny shadow thingies on it). However, I took a few pictures with it and it still takes decent photos... well "ok" photos... using the optical viewfinder. I've been a long-time fan of those.

    The other night my wife and I were at Wal-Mart and I looked at an A590is (for about $150 - my how prices go down when the economy tanks) and you and Dave are right. It felt great in my hands, was easy to figure out and the LCD screen was bright and clear. But best of all the optical viewfinder worked and even changed the view with zoom. I've put it on my xmas list.

    Thanks for all the advice here.

    Craig
     
  18. reallife

    reallife Paddler

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    Take a look at the Olympus Stylus 1030SV

    I have been looking for a rugged, waterproof digital camera for quite a few years and after several intermediate digitals like the Canon Powershots I have recently scored an Olympus that I think is worthy. I paid $277 on-line. Here is a link: http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_secti ... oduct=1363

    It takes great pictures, is waterproof to 30 ft or so, is relatively shockproof, and is pretty much everything I need for kayak and snorkeling shots.
     
  19. andreas

    andreas Paddler

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    Just got myself a Olympus Stylus 850 SW today.
    i haven't had a chance in trying it out yet (battery is still in the charger) but it looks promising, 8.0 megapix, shock and waterproof. Future Shop has it on special right now for $230 something ($40 off). I think that's pretty good deal for a waterproof camera.

    I so far used a Canon S1. A nice camera but a bit bulky and I'm always afraid that I will get it wet when paddling...
     
  20. Monster

    Monster Paddler

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    I'm the worst person to ask this question of, I take great big dSLR cameras along with massive long lenses... only to drop them into the ocean and while on shore no less :?